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Mostar - Bosnia

With an 8.30am leaving time we bought a few pastries from a bakery and some fruits from a small market outside the fortified walls of the Old Town. They were for both breakfast and lunch in case we were still making our way to Mostar. Before leaving NZ I had booked seats on a minivan after reading many blog posts from travellers who had taken the bus. It seemed the 4hr bus trip often took between 6-7 which was not that appealing. Booking a minivan actually worked out cheaper than the bus.

We started our trip with our driver Slav as well as Enrique and Mana who were from Spain and Japan but working in Norway. Our journey began weaving our way out of Montenegro. Luckily for us, Slav was an ex-rally car driver and drove the minivan as if he had stolen it. I had to sit up front with Slav which was slightly unnerving but I did enjoy his commentary during the trip. I was especially interested in the history lesson he gave me on the break up of Yugoslavia and how that impacted on both Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina. Also how Montenegro has a law prohibiting anyone from building houses on flat land. With 75% of the country mountains, all flat land is for food production only.

Just before we reached the Montenegro border poor wee Bella had a chuck. She's never been car sick in the past so it was a real surprise when it looked like she was returning about 20kg of Strawberries in fast forward. After a quick change, we passed the Montenegro border and then entered Bosnia Herzegovina. It was another 90 minutes to Mostar on roads that needed some much-needed maintenance. There was a noticeable difference once we had crossed the border.

Our accommodation in Mostar is at the Sinan Han Motel. We had 1 small room with 4 beds. It's basic but clean and well worth the NZ$80 a night including breakfast. After our complimentary coffee (which was like rocket fuel) we hit the town to explore. Mostar is famous for its bridge and everything surrounding it is targeting tourists. After a wander, we had a lovely Bosnian dinner with Rach and I having Hadjici (a casserole type dish) and the kids Cevapi (similar to meatballs) before going to sleep that night listening to the all familiar call to prayer from the surrounding mosques.

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The next 2 days we visited 4 different museums. The 2 most informative were the Mostar War Photo museum which has photos taken solely by New Zealander Wade Goddard and the Museum of War and Genocide Victims. The latter the kids and Rach didn't go to as it was very graphic. The modern history of Mostar is incredibly sad as is that of the Bosnian Muslims. To think just over 20 years ago this part of the world was in war with what was Yugoslavia splitting into Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo. Mostar still has the signs of the war with many buildings still riddled with bullet holes or some left as they were after the bombings in the 1990's.

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Reminders of the war
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No guns or dogs in the bank please

Mostar is mostly visited to see the famous bridge. Originally built in the 1600s under instructions from Suleiman the Magnificent who ruled the Ottoman Empire from Istanbul it survived numerous wars only to be targeted and destroyed by Croatian paramilitary forces in 1993. It was later rebuilt and reopened in 2004. It is a source of much pride for Mostar.

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Overlooking the old town
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Stari Most - The old Bridge
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Bellie having a copper bracelet made for her with her name stamped on it. He was surprised how tiny her wrists were
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Town from the bridge.
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By night

We also visited the Biscevica Turkish house built in 1635 and took a taxi out to Blagai Tekija a Dervish Monestry built at the source of the Buna river. It has a stunning backdrop with the cliffs above measuring 240m. During our visit, we stopped at a cafe on the side of the river for juice, coffee, baklava and some Herzegovina doughnuts. Yum! In contrast to the other countries, we have visited the coffee here is so strong your eyes roll around your head like a pinball machine. It is served black and if you ask for milk you are literally given a thimble full!

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the stunning backdrop of Blaagai Tekija

Probably the most exciting thing we have witnessed is the divers jumping off the Mostar bridge. The bridge is used as part of the Red Bull World Cliff diving circuit and is an impressive 25m above the water. There's a group of locals who collect money from tourists to jump. Once they have 25 Euros one of them jumps. We chatted to one of them who said they normally do one a day each and there's 8 of them. During our time here we saw 4 of them jump. You can yourself jump for 25 Euros and they even give you some training on a 10m high platform. None of us were lining up!

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To sum up Mostar is difficult. It has a quaint feel around the bridge and is incredibly beautiful but is really touristy and isn't as friendly as I had thought. Plenty of gypsy women and children begging on the streets and one night we had a man impersonating a tour guide with either a fake or stolen ID try to approach me for businesses. After 4 "Thanks but no thanks" he became angry and got in my personal space.
After Dubrovnik and Kotor you do get the sense that Bosnia has suffered far greater losses during the break up of Yugoslavia. Google a map showing the Bosnia Herzegovina coastline in comparison to Croatia. It doesn't seem fair.
I would love to have time to explore more of Bosnia but after 3 nights in Mostar, we're ready to explore another town.

Rach - We've certainly been enjoying some silky tunes in both Kotor and Mostar. Feels like the hits from the 90's are banging out of every cafe restaurant and car radio. Nothing like a bit of Kylie Minogue to pass the day. The sad thing is we know all the words. Matt reckons he'd do okay with Karaoke here.

I had a funny incident in Mostar. We decided after Bella's wee incident in the van that we would try and get some airline sick bags or similar. So I popped into a pharmacy to ask. Charades is not my best game but I had a bag in my handbag that I showed the lady. She still looked puzzled so I opened it and made a pretend vomiting motion. Toby reckoned she looked very frightened as we left the shop after our unsuccessful mission. We had lots of laughs with him reenacting the scene later that evening at dinner.

We've been amused by the wifi passwords in Mostar. Almost all of the time is 12345678. So Matt reckoned he was the master hacker the other night when our accommodation one stopped working and he managed to hook into the next door accommodation.

The gypsies have saddened us. The number of gypsy kids who are obviously not given the opportunity of schooling. Instead, hanging around the town or the bus station all day begging for money. We noticed that each time they got a wee sum of money they went and bought ice cream or other junk food. Secondly, where it appeared they were carrying babies in slings it was often just a whole lot of fabric rolled to look like a baby and perhaps attract some sympathy. It's been an interesting discussion point for the kids and a reminder that their lives are incredibly good.

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True backpackers - our surrounds again reminding us of the hardships experienced in this are

Posted by Watson5 05:11

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Similar up here with buildings still showing the effects of the war, so sad.

by Tracey Parks

Poppa thought Bella might have jumped of the bridge.Poor Bella getting sick hope it hasn't put her off strawberries like it did with her mother with afghans. Counting down the days when you all be home.xx

by Val and Doug

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